Serena’s Review: “Echo North”

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Book: “Echo North” by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Publishing Info: Page Street Publishing Co., January 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: If she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear, and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up, otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.

Review: I’ve always loved the fairytale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” but for some reason, it’s one of those stories that has proven difficult to adapt and reimagine. I’ve read quite a few re-tellings over the years but have never found one that really clicked for me. But hope springs eternal, so I’ve had my eyes on this one for a bit. When I saw that there was a companion book coming out in May, I knew now was the time so that I’d have a chance to read that one, too, if I ended up liking it. Well, I have my ARC in hand for book two, so there’s your spoiler for what I thought of this book ultimately!

Echo believes her father is lost forever when he leaves home and doesn’t return for six months. So she is shocked to discover him one day in the woods, near death. More surprising still, he is guarded by a talking wolf who promises to save her father if Echo comes and lives with him for a year. She agrees and so starts a year filled with magical wonders and horrors, all found in a mysterious house within a hill. There, Echo grows closer and closer to the wolf and a mysterious man found in the magical library. But she strains against some of the magical rules of this realm, and when she breaks one near the end of her time, she begins an entirely new adventure.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve read a decent number of adaptations of this fairytale. One of the particular challenges of this story, I think, is the turn it takes about halfway through the tale. The heroine is instructed to never look at the face of the man who sleeps beside her every night. And then, of course, she does, and this is what sets off the second act of the story where she must travel north to battle the troll queen to save her love. So it’s a bit challenging to write a heroine who is doomed to make what seems like a really silly mistake. Of all the magical challenges that you see heroes/heroines tasked with in fairytales, simply not looking at someone at night is about as easy as it gets. And the reasoning for these heroines making this mistake is often weak and hard to recover from. But that’s one of the best things this book did!

Echo’s story is different than the classic tale in a few ways, and I don’t want to spoil them all here. But I do think the author did a much better job than her contemporaries have for providing Echo with a reason for making this mistake. It’s both understandable and doesn’t harm our perception of her going forward. Instead, it’s easy to understand making the exact same decision she does, given the circumstances of her year in the magical house and her connection with the wolf and mysterious man she meets in the library regularly.

The story also took a very surprising twist in the final third of the book. I don’t want to spoil it, so I can’t say much about it. But it was an aspect of the story that I didn’t see coming at all, and one that also managed to tie up a few loose ends that I had been wondering about previously. There was, however, another revelation that came about in this twist that I thought impacted the romance in a pretty negative way. The book works through Echo’s thoughts and feelings pretty well, but as a reader, I was less forgiving of the fall-out of this twist than she seemed to be. It left a kind of sour note in my mouth, all the more disappointing because it came right at the end as the story seemed to be ready to end on a super high note.

Overall, despite this last second reveal that I disliked, the book was an excellent retelling of this fairytale. Definitely the best one I’ve read so far (I’ll just scrub my mind of that last little bit). That being the case, I’m very excited to read the second book! We briefly meet the protagonist of that story here, and her situation seems just as compelling. Fans of fairytale retellings should definitely check this one out!

Rating 8: Despite a misstep at the end (a very subjective one, at that), the best “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” story I’ve read so far!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Echo North” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Polar Fantasy and East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Kate’s Review: “Homicide and Halo-Halo”

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Book: “Homicide and Halo-Halo” by Mia P. Manansala

Publishing Info: Berkley Books, February 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Things are heating up for Lila Macapagal. Not in her love life, which she insists on keeping nonexistent despite the attention of two very eligible bachelors. Or her professional life, since she can’t bring herself to open her new cafe after the unpleasantness that occurred a few months ago at her aunt’s Filipino restaurant, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. No, things are heating up quite literally, since summer, her least favorite season, has just started.

To add to her feelings of sticky unease, Lila’s little town of Shady Palms has resurrected the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, which she won many years ago–a fact that serves as a wedge between Lila and her cousin slash rival, Bernadette. But when the head judge of the pageant is murdered and Bernadette becomes the main suspect, the two must put aside their differences and solve the case–because it looks like one of them might be next.

Review: I was truly kicking myself when I realized that I had missed the publication of the second book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries Series, “Homicide and Halo-Halo”. Given how much I enjoyed Mia P. Manansala’s first book in the series, “Arsenic and Adobo”, and given that it’s a cozy mystery series I actually like, I immediately put it on hold at the library. It took a little time to arrive, but when it did I was thrilled! Not only was a eager to revisit the town of Shady Palms and the character of Lila Macapagal, I was also eager to read up on all the delicious Filipino food that Lila and her family makes in her Tita Rosie’s restaurant.

And it was a nice return at that! Manansala has once again put together and enjoyable and not so intense mystery involving murder, gossip, and small town beauty pageants! After the head of the judging panel of the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant is murdered, Lila (who was asked to be on the judging panel as a former winner) can’t help but be sucked into investigating, especially when her cousin Bernadette is a prime suspect. It’s the kind of mystery that, while indeed high stakes, doesn’t seem too stressful, and it has the elements of being complex and well thought out without being convoluted or too zig zaggy. I liked following Lila as she investigates like a snarkier Jessica Fletcher, and how she goes about investigating in her own way. It just flows effortlessly, and it did keep me guessing, though going back Manansala did lay the clues out in clever ways.

It’s still the characters that really make it for me. Lila remains a fun and flawed protagonist, who has a little more to work with this time around given that Manansala decides to not shy away from the emotional and mental fallout of the previous novel. Lila is having emotional and mental struggles after having nearly been killed in “Arsenic and Adobo”. I liked that we actually address how traumatizing this was for her, and how that has had some real consequences for her in her personal and professional life. But given that this is, in fact, a cozy mystery, we also don’t get too bogged down in it, and Lila is still a fun, plucky, and snarky detective with a whole cast of characters who act as her foils. From her supportive (though sometimes judgmental) aunties to her friends to her colleagues at the pageant, we have an enjoyable cast of characters, some of whom serve as some probable and potential perpetrators to the crime at hand, as well as other scandals and mysteries that surround it. I especially liked seeing Lila and her nemesis cousin Bernadette interact, as their relationship is… complicated. And we kind of get to explore why that is, and how perhaps they themselves aren’t solely to blame for it. And hell, even though there’s a bit of a love triangle (still with the love triangle, gracious), it wasn’t too focused on that I found it terribly obnoxious. Not terribly, anyway.

And once again, the recipes!! Since this is a library book that will have to be returned I can’t have it at the ready if I want to try them out…. So of course I took pictures of the recipes and sent them to my email recipe folder! Manansala introduces the readers to more Filipino foods and easily gives them background and context within the story, and then adds a few to the back to try at home. I said it last time and I’ll say it again, THIS is the kind of cozy mystery perk I can get behind!

I challenge you to read the description of Halo-Halo and NOT want to eat it immediately! (source)

I continue to be completely charmed by the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries! Bring on the next! My hunger for both well done mysteries and delicious food is ever present!

Rating 8: Another entertaining and delectable cozy mystery with yummy recipes, “Homicide and Halo-Halo” continues a fun series following a fun protagonist!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Homicide and Halo-Halo” is included on the Goodreads lists “If You Liked ‘Dial A for Aunties’ Try…”, and “Filipino Fiction (English)”.

Previously Reviewed:

Serena’s Review: “When a Princess Proposes”

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Book: “When a Princess Proposes” by Kerrelyn Sparks

Publishing Info: Kensington Books, April 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: All Princess Eviana needs is an escape. Possessed of an unfortunate and unusual Embraced gift, which she’s been banned from using, she required no training. Now, her overprotective parents want her to wed. As a result, the palace is crammed with obnoxious noblemen. . . . Until Quentin, the enigmatic eagle shifter and royal spy, maneuvers several of the unsuitable suitors into revealing their most embarrassing secrets before the court. Finally, Eviana has an excuse to free herself. If only her family knew the blow that’s shaken her: golden-eyed Quentin’s refusal to let her near . . .

Heroic, but low born, Quentin’s infatuation with Eviana is as inappropriate as it is unshakable. He must keep away from her, for his own sake. But after a series of suspicious deaths, and the princess’s narrow escape from kidnapping, Quentin knows that only together can they expose the danger stalking Aerthlan’s Embraced. On foot, in disguise, they’ll need trust and quick wits to uncover the vicious conspiracy closing around them. But finding the truth might break down their own defenses as well . . .

Review: I’m always trying to strike a balance between epic fantasy, often full of dark, depressing wars and political machinations, and the light-hearted fare to be found on the other side of the spectrum. I stumbled upon this book while browsing NetGalley one day, and thought it was just the sort of lighter read I was in the mood for. I realized that it was the third book in a series, but it seemed the sort of series that focused on new characters and stories with each book, so I thought it safe enough to jump in without reading the others first. And, while it turned out this was actually something like the fifth book in this series/world, it was still a fun enough read on its own, if not really what I was hoping for it would be.

The Embraced are those born on a particular day of the year, and with this date comes a magical gift. No one knows what their gift may be, whether it will be useful or silly, but the Embraced all have something. It is Princess Eviana’s curse that when her gift shows itself it’s of the sort that her over-protective parents see as more of a threat than a blessing. As such, Eviana has been kept home with her main social opportunities being only the ever-constant search for a betrothed. For his part, master spy Quentin has loved Evian from afar. While he knows that he is unworthy of her hand, he also knows that these supposed suitors are even worse. So when he reveals some of their duplicitousness, Quentin and Eviana’s paths finally overlap. Soon they find themselves on a greater adventure than either could have imagined.

So, like I said, I knew this was a book in the middle of a series when I picked it up. But, being a romantic fantasy series, I quickly noticed that there had to be far more than three books out already. And that’s because you could spot the previous couples around every single corner! It became a sort of game, picking out the various couples that featured as main characters in the other books. And while this book wasn’t really my favorite in the end, some of these other characters did intrigue me. So, who knows? Maybe I’ll go back and check out their stories.

This is definitely a more light-hearted fantasy story. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on characters with only the lightest touches on world-building and magic systems. More than anything, the Embraced reminded me of those with Graces in “Graceling.” The same random gifts bestowed on seemingly random people, some of them being immensely popular and some ridiculous to the point of uselessness. In this world, however, and with the known factor of the Embraced, the story lost me almost immediately with Eviana and her gift. I won’t spoil what it is, though it does come out pretty early on. But I will say that it’s of the sort that could in no way be the most powerful or most dangerous gift that has ever come about. It is definitely powerful, but its advantages seem to pretty clearly outweigh any supposed concerns there could be over it. All of this immediately makes the entire premise of the book a big question mark: that her parents have restricted her choices and life so drastically over this supposedly dangerous gift.

It may seem like I’m harping on a small bit of the book, but ultimately, this book lives and dies by its small moments. The plot itself is very straight forward and simple, which leaves a lot of room to think about these minor flaws. On top of the weirdness around her abilities, I struggled to really connect with either Eviana or Quentin. Everything felt too shallow and too low stakes. I never felt any true concern for either of them or any true investment in the various conflicts thrown their way. They’re perfectly fine characters, but that’s a “fine” in the most dull sense of the word: nothing offensive but nothing to inspire either.

The writing was fine in a similar sense. While the story flowed well enough, the style lacked any sense of flair and unique voice. Instead, it felt very standard and bland. Like the characters, I never felt myself feeling particularly invested in the outcome of the various plot points we move through the story. Honestly, I’m struggling to come up with much more to say about this book, so I’ll just leave it here. This author has quite a few books out, so there are definitely readers out there who will connect with this. And for those looking for a light-hearted romantic fantasy, maybe this will be for you. But for me there was just something crucial missing from the book.

Rating: Fine writing. Fine characters. Fine story. But with three “fine’s” comes a pretty poor reading experience, in my book.

Reader’s Advisory:

“When a Princess Proposes” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Humorous Paranormal Books.

Kate’s Review: “The Fervor”

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Book: “The Fervor” by Alma Katsu

Publishing Info: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, April 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | IndieBound

Book Description: From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger and The Deep comes a new psychological and supernatural twist on the horrors of the Japanese American internment camps in World War II.

1944: As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.

Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot, a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.

Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, The Fervor explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming; the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

I say this a lot on here, but I have a few must read authors and this post is about another one. I have been living for Alma Katsu’s historical horror stories since I picked up “The Hunger” a few years ago, the promise of a horror retelling of the Donner Party too amazing to pass up. We went on to “The Deep” which brought us ghosts and the Titanic. And when I heard about “The Fervor”, and how it was going to be a historical horror story set during Japanese American Internment during World War II, I was both incredibly excited, but also hit by a sense of grief. That’s usually how I feel when I read about the Internment,as I’ve covered on here in a couple of other book reviews. But I was also very excited to see what she was going to do with it. Because Alma Katsu is always unique and surprising with her scares that blend history with horror.

Once again Katsu has created a deeply disturbing horror story steeped in historical events that have their own Earthly horrors to them. “The Fervor” has a few different subgenres that it taps into, from contagion horror to political conspiracy to some fantastic Japanese folklore involving yōkai and demons alike, all within the context of the home front during World War II where America had imprisoned its own citizens because of their Japanese ancestry and heritage. I really liked all of it and how Katsu blends it all together, weaving the supernatural elements with the real world ones. There are strange and dreamy moments of kitsune fox spirits, or visions the jorogumo spider demon dressed as a woman in a red kimono who appears with a swaddled bundle, and usually brings disaster if you get too close. I’m familiar with the kitsune story, but the jorogumo spider demon was new and it was so, SO creepy. I mean, spiders are already not my favorite thing, but it was the imagery of the woman in red and the knowledge that something bad was going to happen when she appeared that really set me on edge.

But let’s be real. The greater horror at the heart of “The Fervor” is the horrors of xenophobia and racism and the oppression of the Japanese American citizens under Executive Order 9066, and how the American Government and society at large justified it. In spite of the fact that Meiko and Aiko obviously have nothing to do with the fighting in the Pacific (there are some distant connections…. but that’s all I will say and I want to reiterate that Meiko and Aiko are innocent, like all those held prisoner during this awful period), they are victims of distrust and racism. And once a mysterious illness starts spreading through Minidoka, and mysterious government agents start arriving and acting shady about said illness, we get a whole new layer of horror that has echoes of some of the things we are seeing today. Katsu draws connections between modern day racism towards the Asian American community (especially right now, given that hate crimes again Asian Americans, especially women, have been on the rise in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic), as well as the ways that our government bodies are willing to Other non-white groups to gain power of various kinds, and to keep the darker realities hidden from the public. I’m really trying not to spoil anything. Just know that it all feels like as the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s powerful parallels, and it’s the true horror of the novel.

What’s interesting about this historical retelling horror tale that Katsu has become known for is that the Japanese Internment and World War II is still, for some people, in living memory. With the Donner Party and the sinking of the Titanic it’s been so long that living witnesses aren’t really a complicating factor, but Katsu makes sure that the not so distant time period isn’t complicating to the story she is trying to tell. We have a mix of fictional characters like Meiko, Aiko, and Fran, but also characters inspired by real people like Archie Mitchell, the missionary whose wife was killed by a Fu-Go balloon bomb in Oregon (if you haven’t read up on the Fu-Go balloons it’s DEEPLY fascinating and I recommend you do). Katsu explores all the different angles of these characters and how their races, genders, and social standings have placed them where they are in society, and how that in turn ties into the greater themes of the story. For Meiko and Aiko, their race has made them enemies of the government. For Fran, she is a white woman but is also Jewish, and is also trying to make a career for herself in a world where men have the power to stop her dreams for any perceived misstep. And then there’s Archie, a white Christian man who is in deep mourning due to his wife’s death at the hands of a strange bomb that can cannot get any information on from authorities, who is conflicted between his rage and his guilt for past indiscretions, and how this leads him to some very dangerous people. They are all interesting and complex, and I loved following all of them as they all eventually come together to try and solve just what is happening with this mysterious illness, and how it connects to the Fu-Go’s and the Internment camps. It’s stellar characterization.

“The Fervor” is another disturbing and effective horror story from Alma Katsu. She is doing historical horror in ways that are so unique, and this one has a deep pain and anger within its pages that feels incredibly warranted. One of the scariest things it reveals is that America hasn’t learned much from one of its most despicable moments.

Rating 8: A compelling and still too relevant story about racism, Othering, jingoism, and fear, “The Fervor” is another well done historical horror remix of tragic events from Alma Katsu.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Fervor” is included on the Goodreads lists “Internment Camps in Fiction”, and “2022 Horror Novels Written by Women and Non-Binary Femmes”.

Not Just Books: April 2022

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

TV Show: “Chernobyl”

Per the usual, I’m over a year behind the fads of the shows everyone’s watching. For this one, it’s purely because I had to work myself up to being able to watch it. When it came out, I was right in the middle of new babydom and knew my emotional state was not in the right place for the super depressing scenes that were sure to come. And now, a year later, it was still a tough watch! Likely because I now ended up watching right in the middle of the war going on in Ukraine. Really made some of those images of bus loads full of fleeing individuals hit harder than usual. Not to mention some of the crazy stories coming out recently of Russian soldiers dicking around near Chernobyl and being exposed to radiation. I think it really comes down to casting, though, for this one; the performances were all so strong! I highly recommend it if you haven’t watched it yet. Though you’ll definitely need some tissues on hand.

TV Show: “Sick Note”

While I’ve seen a few different things with Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe in them since the “Harry Potter” movies came out, I haven’t seen Rupert Grint in anything else. Which is actually pretty shocking since I think, of the three, he was by far the strongest actor if you look at the entire collection of movies. Watson and Radcliffe came into their own and are both good now, but Grint’s comedic instincts were strong from the start (I’ll avoid my rant about how they ruined Ron by making him only a comic relief character). This show tells the darkly funny story of kind of loser-ish young man who finds himself diagnosed with cancer. Only to later find out that that was actually wrong. But how to walk back a cancer declaration when your life has seemed to improve by being sick? It’s a really funny, fun show. Though, be warned, it does end on a bit of a cliff-hanger in the second season and the show was later dropped (stupid Netflix strikes again!)

Video Game: “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey”

It’s been way too long since I’ve really dove into a video game. Much to my own dismay and probably my husband’s relief. I do become rather obsessive when I find one I like! I played the original “Assassin’s Creed” years ago and then promptly missed every release since then. But I saw this pop up on discount on my console (so, yeah, I’m one of those people for whom the ads work, I guess) and thought it was time to jump back in. I love the open world format and the beautiful landscapes that you explore in this story. I also really like the main story and some of the side objectives. I find it particularly satisfying slowly ticking off a list of evil cultists, for example. Fans of the series may know better than me how this installation stands up to others, but I, for one, am having a blast!

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Our Flag Means Death”

About a decade ago now (oh lord that’s insane to type) when I worked at a local museum we had an exhibit about pirates make a stop, and I was one of the employees who worked inside of it. My coworkers and I made up elaborate stories involving pirates such as Blackbeard and Sam Bellamy in which they were absolutely sleeping with each other, just to pass the time on the museum floor. Well, “Our Flag Means Death” is basically that. But far more witty and hilarious. It follows Stede Bonnet, aka The Gentleman Pirate, as he and his hapless crew sail the seas in search of adventure, and do so with hilarious results and lots of humorous scrapes to be had. But when Bonnet and his men run into Blackbeard and his crew, things get interesting, as Blackbeard and Stede form an instant connection. Meanwhile Stede’s crew is making connections of their own, from the foppish Lucius and snide Black Pete to the mysterious Jim and down to Earth Oluwande. Love stories about, diversity in abundance, and seriously hilarious performances by Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi (as well as SO SO ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL).

YouTube Channel: “Fundie Fridays”

Back in December, I was completely hooked on the news coming out of the Josh Duggar Trial. As someone who has always found the Duggars, and really any fundamentalist group and or/cult, to be freak show levels of fascinating, I was tuned in to see if he was going to be convicted of possessing some of the most horrendous child sexual abuse materials ever known while being propped up in a group that is incredibly harmful to its women members and throws a lot of bile and venom towards the LGBTQIA+ community (and he was, thank goodness). While following it with one of my friends, she told me to check out Fundie Fridays, a YouTube channel in which a woman named Jen does her make up and talks about various fundamentalist Christian groups and personalities. I held off because I knew once I did, I would be consumed, and this month I dove into it. And, yes, was fully consumed. Jen covers all sorts of topics, from the Duggars/IBLP, to the FLDS, to influencers like Girl Defined and Brittany Dawn, and also branches out to non-Christian zealots like Heaven’s Gate and Aleister Crowley. Jen is VERY funny, and can be snarky, but she is also very respectful of people who are unassuming victims of these groups, and does a lot of research. She definitely gives more grace than I probably would.

Film: “The Batman”

It’s been a lot of outside looking in for me as movies have started exclusive first runs at theaters again, as I’m still limiting my public indoor time since my two year old can’t be vaccinated yet. One of the movies I was anxious to see was “The Batman”, the new interpretation of my beloved caped crusader/weirdo. So the day that it dropped on HBOMax I sat down and dove in. And oh man, it was one hundred percent my jam. “The Batman” is a noir-esque unhinged and yet completely in control version of the Batman universe in dark, gritty glory. There are serious “Se7en” shades here, and yet even though I don’t like “Se7en” it really works in this context. Robert Pattinson is a young Bruce Wayne, two years into his time as Batman, when Gotham’s rich and powerful start being targeted by a sadistic Riddler. He teams up with Selina Kyle to try and figure out who the Ridder is, and how deep the corruption the murderer hopes to expose runs. Pattinson plays Bruce as a good mix of weirdo and noble, Zoe Kravitz is a very enjoyable Selina/Catwoman, and Paul Dano is TERRIFYING as Riddler. It is a nice darker version of Batman without being super pretentious, and it makes me want to re-read “The Long Halloween”.

Serena’s Review: “Murder at Queen’s Landing”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Murder at Queen’s Landing” by Andrea Penrose

Publishing Info: Kensington, September 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: When Lady Cordelia, a brilliant mathematician, and her brother, Lord Woodbridge, disappear from London, rumors swirl concerning fraudulent bank loans and a secret consortium engaged in an illicit—and highly profitable—trading scheme that threatens the entire British economy. The incriminating evidence mounts, but for Charlotte and Wrexford, it’s a question of loyalty and friendship. And so they begin a new investigation to clear the siblings’ names, uncover their whereabouts, and unravel the truth behind the whispers.

As they delve into the murky world of banking and international arbitrage, Charlotte and Wrexford also struggle to navigate their increasingly complex feelings for each other. But the clock is ticking—a cunning mastermind has emerged . . . along with some unexpected allies—and Charlotte and Wrexford must race to prevent disasters both economic and personal as they are forced into a dangerous match of wits in an attempt to beat the enemy at his own game.

Previously Reviewed: “Murder on Black Swan Lane” and “Murder at Half Moon Gate” and “Murder at Kensington Palace”

Review: Back again for my seemingly monthly review of a book from the “Wrexford and Sloane” series. I’ve had my up and down moments with this series, but now I am beginning to catch up to the author’s release schedule, so it’s becoming a bit of a goal to complete it at this point. Overall, I was pleased with this entry, which just makes it all the more easy to move forward with this series!

Wrexford and Charlotte have begun to make a bit of a name for themselves in the crime-solving department. Of course, each is pursuing these goals under the guise of various other personal personas: Wrexford, a rather grumpy, scientifically minded member of the gentry, and Charlotte as the hidden genius behind a popular satirical cartoonist. But their friends know of their abilities, and it is these friends who call upon them when Lady Cordelia and her brother go missing. As Wrexford and Charlotte dive into the fray, they find themselves getting caught up with players who are more powerful than any they have grappled with before.

I really liked this entry into this series. There were a few things that were changed up that really gave the books the boost they needed. There had been a bit of a rut forming prior to this, so I was pleased to see the author address this. We had two changes made to the general story. One, there were a few chapters where we strayed from Charlottle and Wrexford’s particular stories. Instead, we got to see what Raven was up to. Raven and Hawk have been excellent side characters, but they had been becoming a bit predictable in their “street wise” ways. So having a few chapters where we saw Raven in action helped personify him more as a character in his own right.

We also had a few scenes where our characters were transplanted outside of their typical London domains. It was refreshing to see them interacting in new ways and to explore new locations other than the dark streets of the city. It opened up new angles on our characters and seemed to brighten the story considerably.

The mystery itself was also good. They typically have been, so that wasn’t really a surprise here. I will say, however, that this one walked a fine line of being almost a bit too complicated. I applaud the author for using each book to explore a different unique scientific or economic force that was prevalent in this time period. To do this, however, there is a necessary amount of explanation that needs to be conveyed to the reader in each story to fully lay out the stakes of the situation. And here, too, we got to explore how new concepts that were just entering the scene could be used and manipulated, for good and evil. It just so happened that the way some of these wove together got to be confusing and hard to keep track of as the story unraveled.

I was pleased to see the relationship between Wrexford and Sloane progress nicely. I think this will be a welcome change for many fans of the series. On the other hand, a lot of the emotional stakes for this particular mystery were centered around characters that we knew very little of. Lady Cordelia and her brother, while familiar to a certain extent from previous books, just didn’t have the same pull as the previous mysteries that tied more directly to our two main characters. That said, it is nice to see the cast becoming more fleshed out.

Fans of the series will likely be pleased with this book. It took a few steps forward in important aspects of the story, though I feel like, strangely, the mystery itself was the biggest challenge. Though, I still enjoyed that well enough, too.

Rating 8: Another solid entry. If you’re looking for a reliable (but not mind-blowing) historical mystery series, this one’s a good bet even four books in.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Murder at Queen’s Landing” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Historical Mystery 2020 and Historical Mysteries and Thrillers Featuring Women.

Kate’s Review: “Locke & Key: The Golden Age”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez (Ill.)

Publishing Info: IDW, April 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | IndieBound

Book Description: Unlock moments from Keyhouse’s long history, expanding the saga of the Locke family in this collection of stories, which includes the epic crossover with DC’s The Sandman Universe!

For two hundred years, the Locke family has watched over Keyhouse, a New England mansion where reality has come unhinged and shadows are known to walk on their own. Here they have guarded a collection of impossible keys, instruments capable of unlocking both unparalleled wonder and unimaginable evil. Take a glimpse into the lives of Chamberlin Locke and his family in the early 20th century as they use the keys to fight battles big and small. From the killing fields of Europe during WWI and the depths of Hell, the Lockes are in a constant struggle to keep the dark forces of their world at bay.

Collects three standalone tales, “Small World,” the Eisner-nominated “Open the Moon,” and the never-before-seen “Face the Music,” along with the 3-part …In Pale Battalions Go… and the epic 80-page crossover with The Sandman Universe, Hell & Gone all from the co-creators of Locke & Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez!

Review: Thank you to IDW for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!

It wasn’t so long ago that I wrapped up my “Locke & Key” re-read, and just as it was finished I was delighted to receive an invitation to read “Locke & Key: The Golden Age”. As someone who had never really gone back to read the expanded Locke Family stories that serve as stand alone prequels of sorts, this was a great opportunity to finally do so, especially since the original story was so fresh in my mind. But what made this all the more tantalizing? “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” not only has the supplemental expansions on this universe, but it also has the “The Sandman” crossover that has been tempting me ever since I heard about it.

IT’S HAPPENING! (source)

I will admit that I read this in the exact wrong order (as the collection was sent to me in their individualized sections), mostly because I was so damn eager to get to “Sandman” that I started there, which was like starting at the end. So I’m going to save that for last and start with the Locke stories that lead up to it, but also stand on their own two feet. We meet the Locke family that is living in Keyhouse at the beginning of the 20th Century. We have patriarch Chamberlain, his wife Fiona, his brother Harland, and his children John, Mary, Ian, and Jean. I liked getting to know this new Locke Family through the stories in this collection, which include “Small World”, where Chamberlain gives his kids the Small World Dollhouse key, which can bring anything into their actual house in scale sized form. Problem is, a black widow spider gets into the house when young Jean isn’t paying attention. This is a nice introductory tale that plays with a generally innocuous key, though clearly it has other issues. The other standalone story I want to mention was the most emotional of the bunch for me, called “Open the Moon”. In this story Chamberlain realizes that son Ian, who has a brain tumor and is getting sicker and sicker, is not long for this world. So he and Harland decide to construct a new kind of key to give him peace, taking him on a hot air balloon journey around the world with a magical conclusion. Hill made this short tale so bittersweet and moving, it had me weeping by the end, while still being full of whimsy and joy. These standalones were a good way to introduce a new Locke Family and to make you understand them with limited pages. Which is essential for the next two sections.

The next tale (and, of course, the one I read last because again, out of order!) was the collection called “In Pale Battalions Go”, which bridges the whimsical stand alone Locke stories with the “Sandman” crossover. I will have to spoil a bit in the next section, as the way this one plays out sets the scene for the “Sandman” story. World War I is raging, and even though Chamberlain has the keys and all the powers that they hold, he refuses to use them to turn the tides of war, as he feels they are too dangerous to wield in such ways. His son John, and idealistic early teenager, thinks that the keys should be used to help defeat the Germans, and uses the Age Key to age himself up, takes the keys, and goes to enlist. So we have a World War I tale, with some good ‘horrors of war’ and ‘great power comes great responsibility’ themes. As one can imagine, it does not go well. I liked this story for the most part, as it’s bleak as hell and it does a great job of showing the dangers of hubris and unintended consequences (something that is seen in other “Locke and Key” arcs). I also liked getting to follow John, even if I didn’t particularly care for him as a character because of his jingoistic zeal and terrible decisions. But at the same time, I think that Hill made him a fully realized and realistic character, being an impatient teenage boy during a World War that was unleashing unspeakable horrors.

And now the big event: “Hell and Gone”, the crossover story with “The Sandman”. Taking place a decade after “Battalions”, John’s twin sister Mary has a mission. Chamberlain is on his deathbed, haunted by the fact John killed himself at the end of “Battalions”. Using the Wellhouse portal, Chamberlain knows that John is in Hell because of his suicide, and Mary is determined to go and find him and bring him peace so that her father can die at peace as well. She hears of rumors that in England there is an otherworldly being that could be the key to getting her answers, and when she arrives to meets a boy with a strange helmet and amulet… You can see where this is going. I went into this thinking that there would be a fair amount of opportunity for Morpheus, but then when I realized the time period was during his capture, I wasn’t certain WHAT this story was going to do. But fear not, because this “Sandman” crossover instead utilizes other well loved “Sandman” characters, as Mary teams up with Lucien and Fiddler’s Green to confront Lucifer in Hell over John’s soul. I actually loved this even more because Fiddler’s Green is such a joy of a character, with his mild anxiety and caring heart. I also really loved Mary, as this is very much her story to shine in and SHINE SHE DOES. Her loyalty to her family and love for her twin means the stakes are VERY high for her, and it makes perfect sense that she would be down for tangling with Lucifer himself. And I believed every bit of it. And look for cameos from other “Sandman” characters, like the Corinthian, and yes, even Morpheus himself. And it’s done in a way that works for the timeline of his story combined with this one. Hill did a great job with the “Sandman” characters and mythos, it all felt like it combined perfectly and that he had true reverence for that comic and its characters.

And yes, Gabriel Rodríguez comes back to illustrate these stories and I still love his style. And he is a great artist to add to the great artists who worked on “Sandman” tales over the years.

Isn’t Mary just great? She’s great. (source: IDW)

Overall, this is a fantastic collection that both “Locke & Key” and “The Sandman” fans really need to check out if they haven’t already. I’m so happy to return to both Keyhouse and The Dreaming in this way. “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” met all my high expectations.

Rating 9: Fantastic backstory, fantastic fantasy, and a fantastic crossover with “The Sandman” Universe.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Locke & Key: The Golden Age” isn’t included on any Goodreads lists yet in this format, but it would fit in on “Best Horror Comics/Graphic Novels”, and “WWI: Speculative Fiction”.

Serena’s Review: “Hotel Magnifique”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Hotel Magnifique” by Emily J. Taylor

Publishing Info: Razorbill, April 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: All her life, Jani has dreamed of Elsewhere. Just barely scraping by with her job at a tannery, she’s resigned to a dreary life in the port town of Durc, caring for her younger sister Zosa. That is, until the Hotel Magnifique comes to town.

The hotel is legendary not only for its whimsical enchantments, but also for its ability to travel—appearing in a different destination every morning. While Jani and Zosa can’t afford the exorbitant costs of a guest’s stay, they can interview to join the staff, and are soon whisked away on the greatest adventure of their lives. But once inside, Jani quickly discovers their contracts are unbreakable and that beneath the marvelous glamour, the hotel is hiding dangerous secrets.

With the vexingly handsome doorman Bel as her only ally, Jani embarks on a mission to unravel the mystery of the magic at the heart of the hotel and free Zosa—and the other staff—from the cruelty of the ruthless maître d’hôtel. To succeed, she’ll have to risk everything she loves, but failure would mean a fate far worse than never returning home.

Review: Sometimes, it really doesn’t take much to lure readers in. And publishers know that! For example, look at the number of times something was compared to “Six of Crows” in YA fiction over the last few years? Unfortunately for book marketers, that particular tactic has backfired for me and now I tend to avoid books that are marketed with this tag like they’re the plague. But I still have a weak spot for my beloved “The Night Circus,” as do a lot of readers I think. So, well played marketers, well played. Luckily for me (and good for them!), this book actually deserves the comparison. It might not be on the same level of quality as “The Night Circus,” but it’s a solid comparison, especially for a YA audience.

Jani has been working hard to achieve one goal and one goal only: to return her sister and herself to their homeland which they left on impulse after their mother died. So when a magical hotel known for its exclusive and fantastical experiences appears in town and places a “help wanted” ad, Jani sees this as a welcome opportunity to not only secure employment but see the world at the same time. You see, this hotel skips from location to location every night, exposing its guests to sights barely imagined. But when Jani and her sister secure themselves a position, Jani begins to suspect there may be a darker side lingering beneath the feats of incredible magic. Now, with her sister trapped in a magical bargain, Jani teams up with the strange doorman to attempt to free them both from powerful forces that may have been at work in the world for much longer than she ever could have imagined.

So, I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! I’ve been starting to think recently that I may have outgrown YA fantasy, having more often than not found myself not enjoying these books as much as their adult counterparts. But along came this book to prove that, while there were still elements here that are representative of some of the problems I have with YA fantasy, I can still enjoy this subgenre pretty thoroughly!

I think it started out with Jani herself. And her sister, of course. I obviously have a weak spot for sisters stories, and while Zosa is off page for large chunks of this story, she’s never far from Jani’s mind. Indeed, it is reinforced throughout the book that it is Jani’s determined love for her sister that makes her willing to challenge dangers that others have not dared to face. That love is such a strong force that the villainous elements behind the hotel have worked against love itself for decades. It’s a lovely message, and Jani’s strength and determination, even in the face of almost impossible challenges, makes her a great main character.

I also really liked the idea of the Hotel Magnifique itself. There was an interesting twist here with regards to the typical “outlawed magic” trope that one sees so much of. Here, while magic is considered too dangerous to exist in society, the world has found this one outlet: a magical hotel that contains all of the wonder, and danger, within its walls, allowing people to experience magic without worrying about it in their day-to-day life. There was also a very interesting history built up around how the Hotel came to exist and the stories behind those who work within it.

I do think the writing began to fail the concept a bit with some of the descriptions of these fantastical wonders. I couldn’t quite picture how a number of these things looked or worked. Obviously, it’s magic, so I don’t need the physics to work or anything like that. But there were several instances where I actually couldn’t picture how these things looked or how the guests of the hotel were able to interact with them. It got so distracting that by a certain point in the book, I started skim reading some of these descriptive passages. They weren’t overly important and since I couldn’t really understand what I was supposed to be picturing, it was better to just focus on the plot portions.

The love story was also hit and miss. Objectively, there was actually a lot to like about this. It wasn’t instalove by any means, so huge props just on that fact alone. And then I liked how, even well into the book, Bel and Jani are very much their own characters with their own motivations and lines in the sand. Their burgeoning feelings for each other don’t magically overrun the years of previous lived experience they both have had. But for some reason, I also was never super invested in this romance. Looking back, I think I’m fine with that, though, especially considering how nice it was to see a romance that was not all-consuming of its participants.

I also really liked the magical mystery and threat. I was able to predict a number of aspects here, but the story definitely managed to shock and surprise me at times. There were a number of instances where the story was a lot more dark than was I expecting. Again, I think some of the descriptive failings watered down the final confrontation scene a bit. But I was still mostly pleased with how it played out.

I think this was a pretty solid entry in YA fantasy. Like I said, while it’s no “The Night Circus,” there are definitely similarities, and I think this will be a hit with a lot of YA fantasy fans.

Rating 8: A bit weak in its descriptive qualities, but an inspiring main character and compelling magical mystery make it well worth a read!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hotel Magnifique” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Debuts in 2022 and Judging Books by Their Covers.

Kate’s Review: “Goddess of Filth”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  
Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “Goddess of Filth” by V. Castro

Publishing Info: Creature Publishing, March 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: One hot summer night, best friends Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline hold a séance. It’s all fun and games at first, but their tipsy laughter turns to terror when the flames burn straight through their prayer candles and Fernanda starts crawling toward her friends and chanting in Nahuatl, the language of their Aztec ancestors.

Over the next few weeks, shy, modest Fernanda starts acting strangely—smearing herself in black makeup, shredding her hands on rose thorns, sucking sin out of the mouths of the guilty. The local priest is convinced it’s a demon, but Lourdes begins to suspect it’s something else—something far more ancient and powerful.

As Father Moreno’s obsession with Fernanda grows, Lourdes enlists the help of her “bruja Craft crew” and a professor, Dr. Camacho, to understand what is happening to her friend in this unholy tale of possession-gone-right.

Review: I will wholeheartedly admit that I was one of those girls in middle and early high school who fancied herself a witchcraft enthusiast, as me and some of my girlfriends held the occasional spell casting after school. Whether it be at the far end of the baseball fields or in the fourth floor computer lab, we would cast spells, call to the directions, and do our best impressions of the characters in “The Craft”. Needless to say, when V. Castro’s novella “Goddess of Filth” opened with five teenage girls doing a spell while reminiscing about “The Craft”, I felt seen. Of course, the worst thing that happened at my spellcasting endeavors was some spilled non alcoholic wine on my backpack, not a possession from an ancient goddess…

Honestly, those were some good memories, stained backpack notwithstanding. (source)

“Goddess of Filth” may be my favorite story from V. Castro, and that is because she has not only hit all the sweet spots in terms of feminist spell casting and/or witch tales, she also subverts the traditional possession tale in ways that I have been aching for for a very long time. The first big win for me was our group of friends, consisting of Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline. When quiet Fernanda is possessed by an ancient Aztec deity during a seance, it is up to her friends to figure out how to help her. This is a novella, so the pages are limited, but Castro shows the fierce loyalty between this group of friends, and how they all have endured difficulties in their lives due to their race and class in their Texas community. Through flashback moments and action in the present we see how Lourdes and her friends are viewed by the people around them, and how Fernanda has been put on a pedestal that has both buoyed her but also put a significant weight upon her shoulders. They are seen only as Madonnas and Whores, and it hurts all of them, but they always have each other.

But what I loved most about “Goddess of Filth” is how Castro decides to tackle this whole ‘possession’ storyline. Fernanda’s behavior, on the surface, harkens to the classic demonic possession tropes, so much so that her devout mother calls in a priest to try and exorcise her. She becomes wilder, she masturbates, she speaks in Nahuatl, and at first it seems like things have gone terribly wrong. But Castro flips it, and decides to explore this through a lens that is more positive than one might think. Fernanda is now becoming more in tune with her sexuality and her desires. The deity inside of her, Tlazoltéotl, is a ‘Goddess of Filth’, but she is also a cleanser of sins. While Fernanda’s parents and Father Moreno see this as a demon, they are seeing it through a colonized and Western worldview. For Fernanda, Lourdes, and their other friends (as well as a professor of pre-Columbian cultures they seek out), they see Tlazoltéotl not as ‘bad’, per se, but as a necessary, if not sometimes violent, force. One of my favorite lines in this book was when Professor Camacho decides that a better word as opposed to ‘possess’ is ‘inhabit’, as Tlazoltéotl isn’t really doing anything to Fernanda that is oppressive or possessive. Rather, they work together to free people of their sins, whether it be through helping them come to terms with them, or through punishing them if the sins are very, very terrible. This partnership between Fernanda and Tlazoltéotl, as well as the friendships between Fernanda, Lourdes, and everyone else, are so fantastically feminist. And I could rave about the way that the obsessive and dangerous Father Moreno is a representation of violent imperialist religious oppression probably forever. I love how Castro brings in these bits of social commentary and makes them fit seamlessly and without any clunks along the way.

“Goddess of Filth” is an awesome, quick read, and one that fans of witch stories and possession stories absolutely need to look into. If you haven’t picked up anything by V. Castro yet, make this the one. It’s sure to satisfy.

Rating 9: Feminist, fantastical, and witchy to the bone, “Goddess of Filth” deconstructs possession horror in all the ways I’ve ever wanted.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Goddess of Filth” is included on the Goodreads lists “Best Summer Horror Books”, and “Celebrate Horror 2021”.

Another Take: Spring 2022

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Don’t just take it from us, other readers like these books, too! And we have decided that we would like to showcase other reviewers and bloggers that have their own thoughts and feelings about books that we have loved. Here are a few of the books we’ve enjoyed recently and what other bloggers have to say about them.

Book: “The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea” by Axie Oh

Book Description: Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

Serena’s Review (9 Rating)

Reading ASIAM

Rich in Color

The Nerd Daily (9 Rating)

Book: “A Far Wilder Magic” by Allison Saft

Book Description: When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist–yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.

Serena’s Review (9 Rating)

The Quill to Live (8 Rating)

The Story Sanctuary

F(r)iction Lit

Book: “Nettle & Bone” by T. Kingfisher

Book Description: After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra—the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter—has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince—if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.

Serena’s Review (10 Rating)

Reading Reality (5 Stars)

Unwrapping Words (5 Stars)

Lore of the Books (4 Stars)

Book: “My Dearest Darkest” by Kayla Cottingham

Book Description: Finch Chamberlin is the newest transfer student to the ultra-competitive Ulalume Academy… but she’s also not what she seems. Months before school started, Finch and her parents got into an accident that should have left her dead at the bottom of a river. But something monstrous, and ancient, and terrifying, wouldn’t let her drown. Finch doesn’t know why she woke up after her heart stopped, but since dying she’s felt a constant pull from the school and the surrounding town of Rainwater, like something on the island is calling to her.

Selena St. Clair sees right through Finch, and she knows something is seriously wrong with her. But despite Selena’s suspicion, she feels drawn to Finch and has a sinking feeling that from now on the two will be inexplicably linked to one another.

One night Finch, Selena, and her friends accidentally summon a carnivorous creature of immense power in the depths of the school. It promises to grant every desire the girls have kept locked away in their insecure hearts―beauty, power, adoration―in exchange for a price: human body parts. But as the cost of their wanting becomes more deadly, Finch and Selena must learn to work together to stop the horror they unleashed, before it consumes the entire island.

Kate’s Review (7 Rating)

As Told By Bex Review

Pop Horror Review

Book: “All The White Spaces” by Ally Wilkes

Book Description: In the wake of the First World War, Jonathan Morgan stows away on an Antarctic expedition, determined to find his rightful place in the world of men. Aboard the expeditionary ship of his hero, the world-famous explorer James “Australis” Randall, Jonathan may live as his true self—and true gender—and have the adventures he has always been denied. But not all is smooth sailing: the war casts its long shadow over them all, and grief, guilt, and mistrust skulk among the explorers.

When disaster strikes in Antarctica’s frozen Weddell Sea, the men must take to the land and overwinter somewhere which immediately seems both eerie and wrong; a place not marked on any of their part-drawn mapsof the vast white continent. Now completely isolated, Randall’s expedition has no ability to contact the outside world. And no one is coming to rescue them.

In the freezing darkness of the Polar night, where the aurora creeps across the sky, something terrible has been waiting to lure them out into its deadly landscape

As the harsh Antarctic winter descends, this supernatural force will prey on their deepest desires and deepest fears to pick them off one by one. It is up to Jonathan to overcome his own ghosts before he and the expedition are utterly destroyed.

Kate’s Review (7 Rating)

Read By Dusk Review

Little Bird Book Blog Review

California Reading Review

Book: “Secret Identity” by Alex Segura

Book Description: It’s 1975 and the comic book industry is struggling, but Carmen Valdez doesn’t care. She’s an assistant at Triumph Comics, which doesn’t have the creative zeal of Marvel nor the buttoned-up efficiency of DC, but it doesn’t matter. Carmen is tantalizingly close to fulfilling her dream of writing a superhero book.

That dream is nearly a reality when one of the Triumph writers enlists her help to create a new character, which they call “The Lethal Lynx,” Triumph’s first female hero. But her colleague is acting strangely and asking to keep her involvement a secret. And then he’s found dead, with all of their scripts turned into the publisher without her name. Carmen is desperate to piece together what happened to him, to hang on to her piece of the Lynx, which turns out to be a runaway hit. But that’s complicated by a surprise visitor from her home in Miami, a tenacious cop who is piecing everything together too quickly for Carmen, and the tangled web of secrets and resentments among the passionate eccentrics who write comics for a living.

Alex Segura uses his expertise as a comics creator as well as his unabashed love of noir fiction to create a truly one-of-a-kind novel–hard-edged and bright-eyed, gritty and dangerous, and utterly absorbing.

Kate’s Review (9 Rating)

The Wandering Wordsmith Review

Coot’s Reviews Review

Jessica Map Reviews Review

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